Burning Man Unofficial Founder Dies

John Perry Barlow first went to Burning Man in 1994, and has been a key shaker and mover of the event ever since.

He has shared a stage with his friend Larry Harvey many times, notably in a session called The Founders Speak at Columbia University in 2013.

barlow larry

John Perry Barlow, left, on stage with Larry Harvey at Black Rock City

He passed away peacefully in his sleep after a long battle with illness. He died on the 22nd anniversary of his famous Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace.

He wrote 57 songs for the Grateful Dead, and founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Obituaries at Rolling Stone, EFFVariety, Ars Technica, Jambase

barlow and friend

Barlow was definitely one of the most fascinating characters I’ve ever met. He touched the lives of many Burners and technologists. He managed Dick Cheney’s first electoral campaign, and John F Kennedy Jr was sent to Barlow’s Bar Cross Ranch to “straighten him out”. He went from trying to blow up Harvard and hanging out at Timothy Leary’s Millbrook Acid Castle to consulting to the intelligence community.

Screenshot 2018-02-08 14.52.53

His interview with Larry Harvey and Tech Crunch’s Mike Butcher in London kicked off my whole Shadow History research project.

 

A couple of his best interviews:

John Perry Barlow, Cognitive Dissident (Wesleyan Alumni magazine)

The Legend of John Perry Barlow, Jambase (via Internet Archive)

RIP Barlow, true pioneer of the electronic frontier. You will be missed.

natacha weir bob barlow

John Perry Barlow at Bob and Natascha Weir’s wedding, Mill Valley 1999

Founded On Fire Magick

Fest300 has just published a lengthy interview with Burning Man Founder Crimson Rose. Are they the new Voices of Burning Man?

The article is very interesting and I encourage you to read it in its entirety at Fest300. I want to highlight in particular the occult and marketing aspects of this. The emphasis is ours:

Every year, hundreds of accomplished fire performers throughout the world wipe sweat from their brows, cross their fingers and submit an audition reel for the experience of a lifetime. If accepted, these “conclaves” are granted exclusive access to the Holy of Holies at the godfather of transformational festivals: the Great Circle at Burning Man . They’ll be among the select few taking part in a ritualized fire dance as a gift to all the fest’s participants, and as tribute to the epic burning of “the Man.”

Out of all the myriad forms of artistic expression found at festivals today, many are grandiose achievements by incredible men. But the hearty warmth, nurturing, and acceptance that pervade these places are divinely feminine. Perhaps the archetype who best captures this quality is Crimson Rose , the fire performance community’s celebrated heroine and a founding board member at Burning Man.

Often hailed as “the godmother of fire arts” (she was the first-ever fire dancer on the playa), Crimson reviews conclave auditions with a panel of legends to select the crème de la crème for the ceremony. Year after year, fire performers strive just to be a part of her continued legacy by pouring their souls into their Burning Man performances so the tradition is passed with grace on to the next generation.

To learn more about this sacred art, we caught up with Crimson Rose, who graciously took some time with us to talk about the origins of fire performance, the history of fire dance at Burning Man and the future of man’s first invention in the festival community.

Before joining the Burning Man community in her current role, Crimson was a fine art model and dancer for 27 years. In the 80s, a good friend passed along the art of fire dancing. Coming from a background in theater and dance she took to it quickly and fostered an intimate relationship with flames.

And when they say “intimate relationship” in this puff piece glowing tribute, they’re not kidding:

“…to me, that was really the journey of magic that I discovered not only within myself, but in fire dance itself.”

In those days, everybody danced but nobody danced with fire. What Burners now enjoy out on the esplanade is an evolution of many ancient dancing-based traditions – which only became more tribal once flames were introduced. “I don’t do poi and I don’t do staff,” she said. “My dancing is really handling torches and a bowl of fire, dipping them into the fire and laying that on my body.

Sometimes called fleshing, this technique has been passed down through tribal civilizations for generations. It’s sensual and intimate, and sparks a very special rapport with fire, both for the viewer and the performer.

Righty-ho. Nothing too occult about that is there, worshipping fire so intimately that you want it laying on your body, “sensually”. Perfectly normal behavior, everyone does it, Marge Simpson‘ll be into next.

When we asked about her first-ever dance, she said, “I discovered things about myself because I felt like the fire was a sort of essence of all life. Although, it really is more a phenomena in some sense because there’s a magic to it…That magic, for a lot of fire performers, is the hottest part of the flame…“It was also as if the fire was sort of leading me on its own journey. Sort of provoking me to bring it to life.””

Burning Man Darren Keith Processional

In this photo by Darren Keith, note the Devil Horns on all the keepers of the sacred flame, who stride like giants above us in their Procession to The Man

Without question, this person believes that this is a magick ritual she is performing, in the much larger magick ritual of Burning Man. She was recruited into the Organization Project in 1990 – 7 years before Harry Potter came out – specifically to perform this magickal role.

The Man looked a little different back in 1986

The Man looked a little different back in the early days

We asked how she got involved with this desert social experiment in the first place. She thought for a bit, and took us back to a time before that first dance, to an email and a phone call with the man often accredited with launching Burning Man, Larry Harvey himself. “In 1990, I had a conversation with Larry Harvey and he talked about a thing they were doing. He had sent me a video of what they did the year before. It was really dark. It was a lot of fire and I couldn’t figure out what the hell they were doing.”

…she said to herself sarcastically. “I’m gonna be really cool because I don’t know what the hell these people are doing. They started pulling and a man raised up, and something clicked in me.” Crimson explained. “I didn’t know what it was. But I knew that I had to go to the desert.” Footage from the prior year continued to beckon her to visit. Seeing a man in the film breath the fire that ignited the effigy was enough to inspire the trip.

Igniting the effigy, from the magickal cauldron called El Diabla. Inside the pentagram and the 0.666% circle.

“I always felt like I was sort of a freak. You know, that I never fit in. Not with my family. Not with the school. And all of a sudden I felt like I was among my family in the desert.”

Yep, that’s the marketing pitch. Play to the social element, give the reason why all the freaks should buy tickets to this transformational festival. They don’t have to look beautiful and glamorous and cool like the people at other festivals. But maybe once they spend $400 and brainwash themselves at the self-service cult, they will walk away feeling Burnier-Than-Those People.

Back to the occult bits:

At the center of her magnetic attraction this new subculture was this effigy, over which Crimson grew protective. In one of her first encounters with it, “one of the very first things I did is I had these 16-foot-wide silk wings that I wore as I climbed the Man.” People were astonished to look up and see what looked like a fairy climbing to the top of the figure’s shoulder. “I felt like that at that point, I was the protector for the Man. If the man was going to be released we had to do it in the best way that we could, so that year I got a chance to actually help set him on fire.” For the first time, the magic of dance kicked off the legendary ceremony.

Dance, magic dance.

We must all worship the fire. Like Druids.

Despite an urge to push the envelope every year, rules now exist with a sort of informal reverence for the Great Circle. The fire is hallowed and respected

…Fire dancing at Burning Man spawned greater mysticism and creative energy, along with an appreciation for the accompanying rituals and traditions from which fire dancing came.

The flame that Burns the man is lit in a magickal cauldron named El Diabla. Image: Dust to Ashes/Flickr

The flame that Burns the man is lit in a magickal cauldron named El Diabla. Image: Dust to Ashes/Flickr

Image: Blip.TV documentary on Helco

Image: Blip.TV documentary on Helco

“Spawning greater mysticism” is presented here as a positive. Is this black magick, or white magick? It happens at night in a pentagram with people wearing devil horns and a fire lit from a cauldron named El Diabla; the corporation they started around it chose to launch with Helco parties where they got a lawyer to draw up contracts for people to sell their souls to the Devil. It seems pretty obvious to me which side we’re talking about, but your mileage may vary.

The suggestion that Crimson Rose invented incorporating  fire dancing in sacred rituals at Burning Man in 1991 is ridiculous, as anyone who has been to a South Pacific island could tell you.  

Back to the sales pitch:

One of the great joys of Burning Man is that it provides a space for us to go and learn about one another and ourselves through such rituals. Those who travel to the playa often report feeling more distant from what is familiar. Many, like Crimson Rose, find deeper connection. This will be her 24th Burn on the playa, and she told me, “Every time I go I feel I’m coming back to a place I’ve always been. You know, it sort of reminds me of home.” [Source: Fest300]

mcsatans

Image: Geek Times

Even in the sales pitch there are quite strong occult and psychological elements.

I’m not sure how things could be made more clear to you, people. This is one of the Founders of Burning Man laying out for you specifically what goes on, what she was recruited into the organization to add to their Project.

An occult black magick ritual ceremony of fire dance. It’s more than just a rave in the desert…


 

We have published quite a few articles on the spiritual and occult side of Burning Man in the past. We have a lot of new readers now who probably have never seen some of our earlier work, I would encourage you to check these out: and think for yourself.

2014:

 The Magickal Symbols Are Displayed, The Occult Ritual Can Commence

Brainwashing: the New Billionaire Obsession

Creating God in the Digital Age

Satanists With Guns

2013:

Magic On A Grand Scale

2012:

Seeking Divine Truth at Burning Man

Finding Jesus at Burning Man – a Christian perspective

“Theater in a Crowded Fire” – Spirituality, Burning Man, and the Apocalypse – Neo-Paganism

Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow – Paganism, Wicca, Druids, Lucifer

Ghost Trancing on Sacred Lands – Native American

Burner Principles vs the 10 Native American Commandments – Native American

Burner Fundamentalism – Burning Man’s own religion

Looking for the Next Evolutionary Step – Buddhism and consciousness

 

 

2014 Afterburn Report: The Death of Transparency

spend_money_good_time_442305We’ve been duped, Burners. For 4 years now, we’ve been sold on a “pie in the sky” vision. Burning Man would no longer be about exploiting volunteer labor and the financial and artistic contributions of Burners, to create profits for a small group operating in near-secrecy without oversight. Instead, it would now be a charity, with our tax-free deductions supporting an altruistic vision to bring Burning Man’s Principles to the world. The Founders would step down, but leave the infrastructure in place to maintain the integrity of Burner values into the next century.

A noble vision, but here’s what really happened:

  • the Founders set up a private company and transferred the main assets of the business to it; this company earns royalties for the use of the Burning Man name, logo and trademarks
  • the Founders each got a $1 million+ tax break for passing their share of future profits from the LLC over to the new tax-exempt non-profit
  • transparency was removed, except for public IRS Forms which were filed late.
  • people who had given substantial amounts of their lives volunteering for Burning Man, were arbitrarily shunted out the door to make room for new, paid employees.
  • ticket prices went up, revenues doubled
  • it got harder for veteran Burners to attend, while remaining relatively easy for Virgins

bravenewworld_cover_large

Rather than the transparency we’ve been promised for so many years, and a new BMOrg focused on charitable works, we get higher ticket prices, more revenue streams, and more secrecy. I’m not so sure that Burning Man has jumped the corporate shark – it seems more like it’s been eaten by it.

The new Afterburn report is buried deep in the new web site. If you read “Voices of Burning Man”, the section of the new site that seems to actually update, you’d have no clue about it. If you go to burningman.org, there’s nothing on the main page. If you navigate their menu system – The Culture, The Event, The Network, Stuff & Things – you will have to really dig to find anything about it (the correct sequence is Menu, The Culture, Historical Archives, Black Rock City History, Afterburn Reports, 2014 Afterburn Report). Basically, to read the Afterburn, you need to subscribe to the Jackrabbit Speaks or click this link.

This year’s report begins with the type of statement we’re used to seeing from this crew:

Our AfterBurn reports will continue as they have since 2001, except they’ll now be consolidated, and focus exclusively on the production of the event in Black Rock City.

“Continue as they have since 2001” in OrgSpeak means “be completely different from how they have been since 2001”.

The word “consolidated” in this context means “much smaller”. Significantly, BMOrg are no longer publishing Burning Man’s financial chart. This was always an incomplete document, since for some reason they didn’t share their revenues; we had to make assumptions based on ticket and ice sales. At least it highlighted things like BMOrg spending more on travel and costumes for themselves than they did on donations and art for the community. Read our analysis for 2013 and 2012, as well as the IRS returns for Burning Man Project 2013 and Black Rock Arts Foundation 2013.

BMOrg continue to insist that transparency is still “coming soon”:

Separately, Burning Man will begin producing an annual report, in addition to the yearly IRS Form 990 financial reporting. That report will focus on Burning Man’s nonprofit activities and year-round global programming, as well as updates about Burning Man’s organizational infrastructure and support departments (such as Communications, Technology, Legal, Accounting, Human Resources, etc.).

Given that we just got the 2013 information in February 2015, it seems unlikely that we will be able to have any meaningful discussion about Burning Man 2014 for a year and a half after the event. What’s the point of that? It seems like it would be fairly straightforward to ask the various department heads to write a brief report on the event by December 1, then post these to burningman.org. What do we gain by waiting a year and a half? This is all for charity, right – so why not have openness, sharing, participation, communal effort, civic responsibility, radical self expression, radical inclusion? Why run it like a typical profit-driven corporation, where any disclosure of information must be signed off by the Board and PR team? The event is sold out, so it’s not like their revenues are at risk. At this point, the global culture will grow from participation and authenticity, not exclusion, hypocrisy and secrecy.

BMOrg have just had professional auditors going through the books for 2013 and 2014: will these accounts be published? It seems very, very unlikely.

It is now well more than a year since Larry Harvey said

larry worldIt has been asked if we intend to reveal the financial records of Black Rock City LLC. The answer is yes; that too will happen at about the same time as the Burning Man Project reveals its information—these two entities will then become a clean well-lighted suite of rooms thrown open for inspection.

So will there be an event in the future when “the Burning Man Project reveals its information”? Or did he just mean the IRS Form 990 filings? I’m not holding my breath. Right now, it seems that there is no intention to EVER reveal the financial records of Black Rock City LLC.

In January, Communications Director Megan Miller told the Reno Gazette-Journal:

megan miller“It is definitely incomplete information,” said Megan Miller, communications director for Burning Man Project.

While all of the information required from the Internal Revenue Service is in the documents, Miller said, Burning Man cannot yet disclose revenue information from this past year’s festival, nor the one prior since the organization currently is undergoing an outside audit for 2013 and 2014.

All of this missing information that Burners have been seeking should be available before this year’s end, Miller said

The audit has been signed off, so what are they waiting for? Still counting the money? Or perhaps, so busy counting the $30.5 million from 2015’s ticket sales that what happened in the past doesn’t occupy much attention any more.

The increase in ticket prices and population cap over the last few years has led to a massive windfall for BMOrg, but only a slight increase in the number of art projects sponsored by Burning Man. Artists still have to raise funds themselves, half to two-thirds of project cost.

Screenshot 2015-04-03 09.34.23

For 2014, $800,000 was spent on art, across 61 projects – an average of $13,115 per project. There were another 200 art installations placed on the Playa without any financial support from BMOrg.

And what of the giving back to the community? It’s now more than halfway through the 2014-2015 Burn year, and more than a year since BMOrg “fully completed their transition to a non-profit”. So we should be able to point to lots of great outreach activity, right? Maybe I just can’t find that section of their website. There’ve been a few TED talks and panel discussions.

They’ve gone from “the only things we sell are ice and coffee, and all proceeds from that go to local charities” to “the Arctica volunteers donate their tips to charity” – which was about $13,000 last year.

Perhaps when we finally get to see the 2014 financial information for the Burning Man Project, it will describe some wonderful things that the self-appointed custodians of Burner culture have done to promote it, and we can all feel like we’re saving the world together. Maybe we’ll see a new, fair contract for the artists, when the art grant recipients for 2015 are publicly announced.

Remember 6 months ago, when the community was outraged about the Burning Man Project Director running an expensive Commodification camp with dozens of paid employees? The Minister of Propaganda told us:

(shhhh, just between you and us …) we’re working on a really really BIG project that will serve to tell the Burning Man story as it is today and into the future, and it’s gonna be RAD. You’ll know it when you see it.

Could we get the rad thing now, please? Pretty please?

tanabaumBuried within the latest Jackrabbit was the news that Jim Tananbaum has stepped down from the board of the Burning Man Project. This could’ve been a positive, if it had happened in response to the crisis, showing that BMOrg listened to the community.  Instead they published his statement blaming all his paid employees for his camp’s problems, and lecturing us on what a great example of the Ten Principles it all was. The resignation now comes as too little, too late to have any meaning. We’ve seen what BMOrg’s real response to the AirBnB-ing of Burning Man has been: “camps that get placement have to have an interactive element”. Or, in OrgSpeak: “all systems go, plug-n-players! Charge as much as you like, employ as many sherpas as you like, just buy the $800 VIP tickets. Get your Citibank Gold festival packages now!”

 

Who’s The Best Burning Man Talker?

In 2011, BMOrg announced their change to a non-profit on a mission to save the world. Since then, we sure have seen a lot of panel discussions and jetsetting from Larry & Co. I guess what they’re doing must be working, since they claim 160,000 people wanted to go to Burning Man this year. The well-crafted pop culture campaign mixing print media, references in The Simpsons and other mainstream shows, celebrity endorsements from P.Diddy and politicians and Generals, has all combined to make it harder than it’s ever been before for Burners to go to Black Rock City. We’re hearing reports that many camps have been absolutely decimated this year by the Hellish ticket situation, even if they were on the list. And it can only get worse, not better.

Not to worry, we’re told: “just be After-Burners now“. A bit too old, a bit too jaded, don’t really care if you can’t afford a ticket any more, just look back fondly on your time there – and make way for the starry-eyed virgins and cashed-up yuppies to arrive. The borg wants new minds to mold.

Clearly, there’s no need for any more promotion. So, junkets. Panel discussions. Is it promoting regionals? Is it asking for donations?

The mission of The Burning Man Project (from Guidestar):

Burning Man Project provides the infrastructural tools, educational programs, art programs and other frameworks that allow people around the world to apply the 10 principles of Burning Man in many communities and fields of human endeavor.

And, buried within their new web site (to find it I clicked Menu, The Culture, Philosophical Center, About Us – a faster way would be Menu, The Network, About Us):

Mission

The mission of the Burning Man organization is to facilitate and extend the culture that has issued from the Burning Man event into the larger world. This culture forms an integrated pattern of values, experience, and behavior: a coherent and widely applicable way of life.

Vision

The Burning Man organization will bring experiences to people in grand, awe-inspiring and joyful ways that lift the human spirit, address social problems and inspire a sense of culture, community and personal engagement.

So, is that working? Are We The Burners, through this our community vehicle, bringing experiences to people, and inspiring awe? Are the ambassadors representing us and our values, or speaking for themselves?

See for yourself and please let us know in the comments.

Who gave the best talk? Who best represents Burner values to the world? We report, you decide…

Harley Dubois at The Feast, 2014

Crimson Rose, 2009

Crimson Rose, Panel Discussion, 2014

Will Roger, 2014

http://guides.library.unr.edu/burningman/BurningMan/WillRoger

Bear Kittay TEDxTokyo (and Robot), 2014

Bear Kittay TEDxBlack Rock City – 2014?

Bear Kittay TEDxOaxacaca, 2013

Bear Kittay TEDxStockholm, 2015

Larry Harvey, TEDxBlack Rock City, 2011

Larry Harvey, Charlie Rose 2014

Larry Harvey, Le Web London 2013

Larry Harvey, John Perry Barlow, Le Web London 2013

Marian Goodell, TEDxBay Area 2014

Marian Goodell, TEDxTokyo, 2014

Chip Conley and Marian Goodell at the Commonwealth Club, 2014:

Larry Harvey, Marian Goodell, Jenn Sander, Kelly Anders in Paris, 2013:

Danger Ranger, San Mateo 2014

Burner Julia Wolfe, age 9

What do you think, Burners? Should we donate so there can be even more promotion of Burning Man, so it gets even harder to get tickets?

Who is representing Burner values to the world the best?

“Failure!” – Tananbaum Gets Called Out by BM Director

Image: Beverly & Pack/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Image: Beverly & Pack/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A couple of days ago, BMOrg finally posted their response to the many concerns raised by our community after this year’s event. You can read our analysis here: BMOrg Hath Spoken.

Many Burners felt that this whitewash of the major issues didn’t go nearly far enough. The only real policy change was to stop their VIP Donation Tickets program. They completely ignored whether any of the 25 12 Commodification Camps were also offered invitation-only tickets in the Directed Group sale, and whether that might happen again in the future. “Commodification Camps will be held to the same standard as theme camps” – but that was already their policy. Stating what the rules already are is not the same as changing the rules.

Something that has particularly rankled many Burners was the involvement of one of the Burning Man Project’s Board of Directors this year in running the most notorious 50-sherpa Commodification Camp, Caravancicle – which was also ignored in BMOrg’s post.

It seems that at least one Burning Man founder felt the need to single Tananbaum out for his actions. Michael Mikel, who goes by the pseudonym “Danger Ranger”, took to his Facebook page with a late night rant sharing his personal views on the situation to his 1000 followers. As well as spreading a bunch of lies about myself and this site, which he had no interest in correcting before he blocked me, the knives were out for Jim Tananbaum.

Here are some excerpts from his lengthy diatribe.

MM:

BURNING MAN BROKE CARAVANSICLE

The post-burn forensics of this internet-fuled drama of rumors on top of rumors has been challenging and time consuming…We are now at a point where there is enough information to answer some of the questions that have arisen. Larry, always the consummate lucubrationist, has posted to the Burning Man blog about this issue. I have also conducted my own personal investigation into this matter and have come up with answers that may be more specific than some of those presented thus far.

“Lucubrationist” means some who speaks pedantically or overly elaborately.

Why do there need to be “separate investigations” within BMOrg? This is an annual party that goes for a week, put on by Burners. It’s supposed to be all in good fun. If it is so hard to get to the truth that 3 months of “forensics” are required, shouldn’t the forensic investigation at least be co-ordinated? If these people can’t even trust each other, why should we trust them?

MM:

My conclusion is that Burning Man broke Caravansicle. I might add that the individual who profited from Caravansicle will not be allowed back into Burning Man.

Many Burners will be disappointed to learn that the individual he’s talking about is not Jim Tananbaum. He remains on the Board, and it looks like they are absolving him of any responsibility for commodifying Burning Man with a multi-million dollar for-profit camp – despite the requirement in their Bylaws that all Directors must uphold the Ten Principles.

MM:

When I was finally able to confront Mr Tananbaum face-to-face, my first words to him were; “You really stepped in some shit.” I believe that he truly regrets the wreckage in the wake of his camp. Mr Tananbaum started out with the best of intentions. Caravansicle was not intended to be commercial in nature. His goal was to fund and produce a large camp for friends and associates, much like the camps that he had done in the two previous years. But this year it was going to be grander and larger. His first mistake was to hire a professional camp producer from the commercial EDM world with no Burning Man experience. This is what brought in the sherpas and wristbands.

A camp with 120 guests and 50 employees that charged $17,000 per person was not intended to be commercial in nature? You really expect us to believe that?

The first time we saw public use of the word “sherpa” in relation to Burning Man was in a New York Times story before the Burn which had nothing to do with Caravancicle. They were far from the only camp or art car at Burning Man to have wristband-only VIP sections.

MM:

His second mistake was having a bar so big and so public that it ran out of liquor. Nothing is worse than a half-drunk lynch mob. 

This is the first account I’ve seen of Caravancicle having a large, public bar. It differs remarkably from what Burners have been reporting about Caravancicle. “A bar so big and so public that it ran out of liquor”? Where does Mr Mikel get his facts from? We are relying on whistleblowing testimony from one of the sherpas employed by the camp, as well as comments from other Burners who went there. Here’s what the sherpa said:

Popsicle camp advertised to customers and to Placement that they would build a lounge out on the street in front our walls that would be cooled to 45º and contain a bar inside where hot and dusty passers by could enter to cool down and indulge…The front of our camp was advertising that a second  iced tea/water lounge would be on the street and all of our customers would be there from 2-4pm every day passing out even more popsicles to people.

Neither of these structures had been built. There just happened to be more important priorities, which revolved around making sure that the paying customers never needed to use a porta potty.

The bar that was built did not run out of liquor to serve the public; rather, it was fully stocked, but wristband-only from the very beginning.

The sherpa:

We had a massive dome built that would be open for the public to enjoy. There were specialty drinks, music, dancers, couches, coffee tables with Alex Grey paintings, snacks, and much more. This we did have, and it was BEAUTIFUL.  I only ended up bar tending one shift…While serving our guests, there were random visitors and the folks from the missing motel. I was told that only our members that had paid to camp there were allowed to have drinks. Considering that we had a visible full bar and a menu containing our specialty cocktails, you could imagine the embarrassment I felt when telling some people they can not have those advertised drinks, and telling others they can. Suddenly our public dome contained some VIP options. “Only those with the VIP wristbands can have a drink, can I offer you a peanut?”

MOOP #fail

MOOP #fail

Doesn’t sound like a large public bar with no booze in it to me.

Apparently, all the MOOP of the combined Caravancicle and Lost Hotel camps was the fault of the one scapegoat, and nothing to do with any other camp organizers, or Mr Tananbaum.

MM:

And I’m sure that the professional camp producer was surprised to discover no trash dumpsters at Burning Man. None-the-less, the camp producer took the money and ran.

Most of the MOOP at Caravancicle was actually left by the Lost Hotel. The Lost Hotel built 90% of the structure of Caravancicle, and seems to have profited by renting the rooms for Tananbaum’s camp to sub-let.

The sherpa:

The building crew for the neighboring camp was in collaboration with our camp. 90% of our camp had been built and designed  by the neighboring camp. Lets call this camp “the Missing Motel” The Leader of this camp is a brilliant visionary that seemed to be very passionate about inspiring creativity with his own art. The Missing Motel rented our camp these extremely unique and beautifully constructed canvas “rectangles” that would be homes to myself and guests included. Missing Motel Build lovingly crafted every single detail of  popsicle camp. Everything from our private bathrooms, our rectangles,  and every piece of furniture in it,  the lay out of the camp itself and a majority of the beautiful details

Photo: Lost Hotel/Facebook

Aerial Photo: Lost Hotel/Facebook

The Lost Hotel were experienced Burners, and were surely aware of the requirement to Leave No Trace. Mr Tananbaum as a Director of Burning Man, is required by their Bylaws to uphold the Ten Principles, so he could not have been unaware of this either. Mr Mikel says he had already put together 2 major camps at Burning Man before, so the idea that no-one there knew they had to pick their MOOP up is unlikely.

MM:

The truth is that Mr Tananbaum lost tens of thousands of dollars on this failed project. That is not to say that the captain does not carry ultimate responsibility for his ship. While he has been quite capable of amassing a fortune in the world of venture capital, it does call into question if he is ready and able to help navigate the Burning Man ship. Then again, there is nothing like failure to add to ones experience. I think that having an 18-person board of directors is good in that it allows a larger pool to maintain overall management and guidance, which is certainly an improvement over the past when there were only 6 board members.

Barking up the wrong tree. Image: Ralph Hightower/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Barking up the wrong tree. Image: Ralph Hightower/Flickr (Creative Commons)

There’s a difference between “lost tens of thousands” and “gifted tens of thousands”. The former implies a profit motive. So basically, he’s saying “hey, Tananbaum tried to profit from Burning Man, and didn’t succeed because the guy he hired to manage it ran off with all the money. No problem, maybe he learned something that could help us – carry on”.

The “Turnkey Camps” blog post said that none of the Commodification Camps tried to make a profit – which flies in the face of logic, as well as contradicting Danger Ranger’s statements based on personally confronting Jim Tananbaum. Mr Mikel’s forensic investigation seems to have shown that Mr Tananbaum only failed to make his intended profit because the funds were embezzled by one of his paid employees. The camp charged $17,000 per person, so if Tananbaum is only out of pocket by “tens of thousands”, how much did this un-named lackey actually steal? It seems like keeping the cash from only 2 of his 120 guests would’ve been enough for Tananbaum to break even.

MM:

Bmorg is instituting new procedures/policies next year, which will bring all non-infrastructure plug-and-play camps under the theme camp registration process and hold them to the same standards.

This is exactly what they said in 2012, about the same issue. In fact, their own post of just 2 days ago explaining the Commodification Camps said that they were already required to be held to the same standards. More on that below.

MM:

The transition of Burning Man from tontine to non-profit organization has taken more that six years. Thru all of this, no one in the organization is getting rich off of Burning Man. That will become apparent after the numbers for the non-profit are published. It’s been a very complex process with many moving pieces, some of them not quite in place.

Perhaps no-one in “the organization” is getting rich, but what about “the owners”? Our reader A Balanced Perspective has calculated their take via this Decommodification structure to be somewhere between $35 million-47 million dollars, and so far no-one has been able to provide any evidence or argument otherwise. We also exposed a million dollar plus discrepancy between what BMOrg were saying they were paying the BLM and what the BLM were saying they got paid, which on an annual basis could increase this take even further.

Here’s Danger Ranger’s “tipping tweet” of November 21, 2008, which he credits with starting this whole “non-profit transition”

danger tweet 2008 nov 21

 

Others might argue that Harley Dubois’ surprise resignation was actually the event that triggered the process of unravelling their corporate structure, more so than this tweet.

How much longer will all of this take, before we get to see what’s actually going on? 6 years, and nearly $8 million on lawyers and accountants over that time, isn’t enough to open the books to the public? We still don’t have the 2013 IRS filing numbers for the Burning Man Project, and it’s not looking like we’ll see any 2014 numbers until 2016.  What exactly are these “moving pieces” that are still left to work out before the community gets the transparency we’ve been promised for so long?

The sole purpose of Decommodification LLC is to protect the Burning Man name and I’ve programmed it to automatically dissolve after its mission is completed.

I believe he is talking about the “Dead Man’s Trigger” clause he boasted of inserting into Decommodification, LLC.

MM (in March 2014):

Larry has the last word on the Transition discussion. (But I am pleased to note that I am the one who programmed the deadman switch into Decommodification LLC.)

This clause apparently says that ownership of Decommodification, LLC will revert back to the Burning Man Project in 3 years, unless all 6 Directors vote to stop that. As far as I know, this clause is not tied to “completion of the mission” in any way, it’s time based. If Decommodification, LLC was bought by another entity (eg, Foresight Capital, or LiveNation), then different directors could be appointed and this wouldn’t happen. Or if the existing Directors decide they like the royalties that are pouring in to this private, secretive company, they might well vote in their own interests to keep them coming.

It’s hard to see what Decommodification, LLC specifically are doing to protect the Burning Man brand – especially when it seems like the Tin Principles are being chucked out the window now as “an ethos, not rules”. The lawsuit they have been pursuing in Canada lists the plaintiffs as “Decommodification LLC, Black Rock City LLC, and the Burning Man Project, doing business as Burning Man” – so what does Decommodification, LLC really add to the mix, that Black Rock City LLC and the Burning Man Project couldn’t have achieved on their own? Which of the three entities is footing the legal bills in this case?

As for the sole purpose of Decommodification LLC? Article 5, Clause 1 of the Bylaws about sharing of corporate profits prevents the Board of Directors of BMP from profiting from the event, except specifically through the Founders  ownership of the intellectual property which is via Decommodification, LLC:

bylaws article 5

If profiting from this arrangement was not part of their purpose, what is the need for this exemption?

MM:

Today Burning Man is an eight hundred thousand ton gorilla with many mouths to feed. It’s a network of departments and people, sometimes with competing interests. It’s still evolving. It has lost much of its agility, but there are some advantages to size. We are now having an impact on the world at large and we have the power to change that world for the better.

What are the competing interests here? Who’s competing for what? What impact is it that Burning Man is now having on the world at large? Marge tripping on acid and Maggie playing with a syringe on The Simpsons? An art car going into Zappo’s HQ? Grover Norquist and Denis Kucinich using it to appeal to new voting blocs?

Time will tell, and so far in 4 years the Burning Man Project seems to have not accomplished very much at all, let alone changed the world for the better.

BMOrg have admitted in their blog posts here and here that they were fully aware of the for-profit Commodification Camps, and gave them preferential placement, while refusing 58 Burner-operated Gifting-based theme camps.

Initially, in this post, they said that they had placed 25 Commodification Camps; by the time they had “listened to all the feedback”, this was whittled down to just 12.

On October 28 Answergirl said:

We define Turnkey camps as those that offer a public space and interactivity in addition to private spaces for larger groups and are typically built by a producer, rather than a traditional camp lead.

On December 3 BMOrg said:

The term “turnkey” has been used to describe camps with paid teams that set up infrastructure before other camp members arrive. This general definition could be applied to many camps, including many well-known, beloved and highly participatory theme camps…

On the other end of the spectrum are “plug and play” or “concierge camps” (A.K.A. hotel camps, resort camps, commodification camps), where vacation-type experiences are sold in package deals at exclusive prices, often with no expectation or commitment by campers to contribute to the larger community.

These camps have not been banned, or even censured.

petit ermitage

Petit Ermitage, a trendy boutique hotel from West Hollywood, are promoting the pop-up hotel they did at Burning Man with Cirque Gitane – who at least scored Green on the MOOP map, and by all accounts shared professional theatrical performances with the public.

 

BMOrg said:

These concierge or commodification camps undermine the social fabric of our community, which is unacceptable.

Commodification camps are not only in direct conflict with our culture, they are also not allowed by the terms of our permit…A commodification camp operating without a permit risks citations and fines from the BLM. The Burning Man organization is exploring ways of monitoring this more effectively in the future

Not “this won’t happen again”. Just “they need a permit and we’re investigating ways to monitor this more effectively”.

All camps that receive resources from the organization must demonstrate their contribution to the broader community. For 2015, all camps (other than infrastructure support camps) will be held to the same standards in order to receive placement, early arrival passes and access to the Directed Group Sale

Rather than “Commodification Camps won’t get early access passes and invite-only tickets”, this statement really says the exact opposite. In some sort of black box process without oversight, BMOrg will work out where to put them and how many tickets they can have.

What’s the bottom line? Tananbaum gets to stay, just with some public shaming from one of the founders. His employee is made the scapegoat, and accused of embezzlement. Commodification Camps have to go through the Placement team, just like they did in 2014, and the other years before that. All they need to do is say “we’ll have a bar”, and it’s business as usual. If the bar doesn’t materialize? Whoopsie-daisy. If they leave a bunch of MOOP? Naughty, naughty. All the owners have to say is “I didn’t make any money”, and they can continue as before. The VIP Donation tickets program will be discontinued, but the World’s Biggest Guest list  goes on, without any oversight. Transparency? 7 years isn’t enough, they need more time. “Coming soon”.

 

radical inclusion cult